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More Public Colleges Taking Holistic Approach in Admissions

November 2, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

Think getting admitted to the local public university is just a numbers game? Think again. State colleges are increasingly adopting a holistic approach to college admissions, especially at more selective flagship institutions. While applicants with high GPA's and standardized test scores are still likely to easily gain admittance, students more towards the middle of the pack may want to be aware of this growing trend in enrollment.

The holistic approach means that colleges are aiming to consider the whole applicant, not just his or her grades and test scores, in the admissions process. This information often includes such things as the student's background, the type of school he or she attended, and the student's employment and extracurricular activities. Participation in athletics, volunteering and community service, or school clubs could all work to a student's advantage under a holistic approach.

How schools collect this additional information about applicants varies, but it's likely to mean a longer and more complicated college application process. For many schools, this has meant adding sections to the application or asking for more, longer, or less formal application essays. For others, it could involve looking more closely at letters of recommendation or beginning to ask for them when they hadn't previously. College admission officials are also contacting high school counselors to ask questions about applicants that may not have been answered by their college application.

There are some significant benefits to this process. Students who have taken a less traditional path through high school may find their applications considered more favorably. Another upside of colleges looking more closely at the whole student comes with the question of "fit." Applicants admitted to institutions with a more holistic approach may find themselves happier at the college they ultimately attend, as their interests and their institution's focus may match more closely than if they'd been admitted based solely on the results of a formula.

If you are applying to a state college or a private college this year, you may want to take a holistic approach to your application, treating each section as if it's going to be read with a critical eye. Students who have little to show for their high school experience other than decent grades and test scores could potentially find themselves turned down by their top choice schools, but students who can demonstrate the full depth of their value could see big returns.

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Do Colleges Discriminate Against Women in Admissions?

November 3, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

College admission practices are often points of contention, especially when tricky issues like race, gender, and socioeconomic class are concerned. Colleges worry about trying to promote diversity and give students a fair chance in their admission practices and other parties worry about practices potentially shortchanging students. Based on some of these concerns, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has decided to investigate allegations of gender bias in admission practices at selective colleges. The concern: in order to preserve male-to-female ratios on campus, colleges are being less selective in admitting male students than in admitting female students.

In recent decades, women have begun to thrive in higher education, making up a significantly larger share of undergraduate students, bachelor's degree recipients, and master's degree students than men. Postsecondary Education Opportunity data shows that currently there are 77 men in college for every 100 women, and 73 male bachelor's degree recipients for every 100 female graduates. While gender gaps still persist within specific fields, including traditionally male-dominated disciplines like engineering and computer science, overall women are coming to college in droves and doing well once they arrive.

This trend shows no sign of reversing and has some worried that men will become increasingly underrepresented in higher education, while simultaneously work opportunities contract in traditionally male-dominated fields that don't require degrees. Schools and other organizations are beginning to address these concerns. For example, a conference panel last month addressed some of the moves being undertaken to encourage more young men to attend college and persist to a degree.

The Commission on Civil Rights inquiry is intended to see if practices are going beyond encouraging young men to enroll and have actually moved into the territory of discriminating against women in admission by admitting a smaller percentage of female applicants and being more selective in admitting women than men. This practice, while possibly unethical at private colleges, would be illegal at state colleges. So far, there hasn't been sufficient evidence to support this theory, with the majority of admission officers recently saying they don't consider gender as an important criterion in college admission, leaving some wondering if the inquiry is entirely necessary. Information subpoenaed from colleges in the Washington, D.C. area should help the commission determine whether reality reflects reporting.

Adding in another level of controversy and drawing a great deal of criticism to the investigation is the strong focus on athletics in the text of the proposal for the investigation. The theory behind it seems to be that Title IX, the federal regulation designed to prevent sex discrimination--most visibly by mandating that men's and women's sports are equally represented in public schools--is preventing men from enrolling in college by limiting their opportunities for athletic involvement. Of all the directions the investigation could take, this certainly seems to be an unusual one, and on the surface it seems to present some problematic and likely inaccurate assumptions about gender. The investigation gets underway this month, so a clearer sense of direction may emerge as time goes on.

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Admission Competition Heating Up at State Colleges

November 16, 2009

by Scholarships.com Staff

While so far it appears that the recession has not had a negative impact on students' desire to go to college, it may be affecting their ability to get there, or at least to get into their school of choice.

State colleges have endured some significant budget cuts in the last year, while also coping with an increased demand for student financial aid and drops in endowments and donations. These circumstances have left schools scrambling to find additional sources of funding to meet everyday expenses and deal with increased demand. To mitigate tuition increases, many state colleges, especially public flagship universities, have begun to admit more out-of-state and international students. These students pay higher tuition, often without significant help from university scholarships, meaning more revenue for the university and lower costs for the in-state students attending.

This is a win-win situation for colleges and out-of-state students, who are more likely than ever to get into their dream school thanks to these new policies. One example is the College of William and Mary, where the out-of-state admission rate has risen from 22 percent of applicants in 2007 to 30 percent in 2009. While out-of-state admission is still significantly more competitive than in-state, students who are able to pay non-resident tuition at public flagship universities may see more success in 2010 than previous years.

However, with more seats being filled by out-of-state students, in-state students are at a disadvantage. At the same time as admissions ratios are being adjusted, more students are applying to in-state schools to take advantage of relatively reasonable tuition costs, especially where a low price corresponds with a top-rate education.

Where competition is fierce and seats and scholarships are limited, students who had been planning on attending their state's public flagship may want to cast a wider net in their college search. Consider a private college-some in California are offering substantial scholarships to students who would otherwise have attended a state college-or think about putting in a year or two at community college first. You may also find a less expensive, but still highly respected, option in a branch campus of a flagship, or in another state college nearby.  It may even be possible to transfer to your dream college later, as more and more university systems and community colleges develop agreements for how credits will transfer between schools.

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College Rejection Letters Don't Have to Mean Failure

April 1, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

If you haven't heard already, today may be the day you find out whether you've been accepted to your first-choice college or university, as April 1 is the notification deadline for many of the most selective schools across the country. If the news you've gotten so far hasn't been the best, though, or if you come home to see a slimmer envelope than you'd hoped for, know that you're not alone. Many of the most famous and familiar faces out there were rejected from their top picks. (And no, this isn't an April Fool's joke.)

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal took a look at the company students with rejection letters will be keeping, and the examples they found should make any dejected high school senior feel just a little bit more hopeful. Harold Varmus, a Nobel laureate in medicine, was rejected twice from Harvard Medical School, at one time counseled to join the military instead. There's a decent-sized list of famous faces who have been rejected from Harvard. "Today Show" host Meredith Vieira and broadcaster Tom Brokaw were both rejected from the Ivy; Vieira instead met a mentor at Tufts University who got her into journalism. Warren Buffet, currently one of the richest people in the world, now describes his rejection from Harvard as a mere "temporary defeat," according to the Journal. Ted Turned received dual rejection letters from both Harvard and Princeton University, eventually attending Brown University, where he left on his own terms to join his father's billboard company - a company he has since turned into a media empire.

If you didn't get in everywhere you wanted to, don't be too discouraged. It's rare that an incoming freshmen hasn't had to deal with at least one rejection letter. Check out the New York Times' blog for their ongoing feature of students' experiences this admissions season. Those students are not only dealing with good news, but making tough decisions on whether those number-one choices were really the best fit, or only the top picks in their college searches because of their ranks and reputations.

This is also one of the most competitive years in terms of admissions rates, as more students are applying to the most selective schools than in years prior. Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania, for example, have seen percentage increases of applicants in the double digits over the previous year. Both of those schools have admission rates hovering around 14 percent, which seem like tough odds. So expand that net when you're choosing a college, because there could be a diamond in the rough out there that you haven't yet considered.

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Not Rejected, Not Accepted: Tips for Handling the Waiting List

April 6, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

While many students marked April 1 as the day they found out whether they were accepted or rejected to their first-choice colleges, many others were given a different response - placement to the waiting list. High school seniors are then faced with a tough decision. Should you take a risk and bank on placement at a school you're wait-listed at, even if you miss notification deadlines at schools you've been admitted to? Or should you cut your losses and inform the schools you've been wait-listed at that you'll be going elsewhere?

The waiting list generally benefits the colleges. The schools' administrators are able to wait until their own first-choice students make decisions on where they intend to attend, moving to those on the waiting list typically by May 1, once students' deadlines to notify the school of their choice have passed. The schools may also use the waiting list to fill gaps in their student population, according to The New York Times, offering eventual admittance to a student with a particular musical or athletic talent that the school had hoped to enroll in their first-choice pool.

Knowing this, it may seem like a risky endeavor to bet on a school choosing you out of the hundreds of other students on waiting lists. Still, many do choose to stay, especially at the most prestigious, private schools. At Yale University, for example, about two-thirds of students remain on the waiting list. (More than 900 were wait-listed at Yale this year.) Of those offered eventual admittance to Yale, a majority do choose to enroll there.

So what should you do? It really depends. Here are a few tips: 

     
  • If you know you won't be attending a school you're wait-listed at, notify them of your intentions right away. There's someone out there who does want that spot, and you may be keeping them from being placed at their top-choice school.
  •  
  • If you know you're sincerely interested in the school you're wait-listed at, let the school know that. Notify them immediately that you intend to wait for their decision, and send admissions staff a personal letter on why you want to go to that school. If they're your top choice, tell them. If you know any alumni from the school, ask them to write a letter on your behalf. This is the stage of the game where admissions officials are looking at every piece of information coming in on an applicant.
  •  
  • Ask for an interview. You wouldn't be wait-listed if you didn't have the academic credentials to attend their school, so the admissions office will now be looking at other factors - extracurricular activities, outside interests, and whether your personality is a good fit for their campus.
  •  
 While waiting lists are more common at private institutions where enrollment numbers are much lower and the unpredictability of students’ decisions about whether to enroll in those private schools is much higher, some schools have used the list as more of a strategy to deal with uncertainties in state budgets or over-enrollment. California's public university system is using waiting lists to deal with a record number of applicants this year and a state budget shortfall that has made it impossible for the school system to accept as many students as it had been admitting in year prior. This is the first time the state universities have used waiting lists, and students have until April 15 to remove their names from the lists or continue waiting until around the first week in June. Any new admittances will be determined by the outcome of the state's 2010-2011 budget negotiations.

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Saint Michael's College Drops SAT Requirement

April 7, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

While the debate over the effectiveness of standardized test scores continues, one school has decided to do away with the tests as part of their application process. Vermont school Saint Michael's College announced Tuesday that its applicants will no longer need to include their SAT results as part of the school's admissions process. Students will be evaluated on other criteria instead, including their high school academic records, leadership and service work, and extracurricular activities, among other factors.

Students will still be able to choose whether or not to submit both their SAT and ACT scores to the college. Some students are just good test-takers, the college reasons, so impressive scores may add value to an application. But the decision signals a shift, at least at Saint Michael's and other schools with similar requirements, that there are other, more important factors of a student's college application outside of standardized test scores. For example, the school has always paid attention to the kinds of courses students choose to tackle in high school, according to Jacqueline Murphy, the school's director of admissions. Murphy was quoted in the Burlington Free Press as saying the decision "made official something we've always done in practice -- and that is, focus on a holistic review of the student."

The standardized testing system has been criticized for years, most prominently by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. NACAC has gone so far as to say standardized tests should be removed from admissions processes altogether, and that standardized prep services benefited only those who could afford them.

Whether you agree or not, you'll probably be faced with the prospect of taking some kind of standardized test in your college or post-graduate career. Although hundreds of schools across the country have done away with the standardized testing requirement, many more still require students submit their ACT or SAT results. If you're planning on going to law or graduate school, you'll also need to take either the LSAT or the GRE to gain admittance into those programs. It's best then to at least familiarize yourself with the formats of the tests. Best case scenario, you'll also take some time to practice taking the tests and studying up on the main themes you'll be asked to recall on the exams. If you're worried, browse through our tips for taking standardized tests. Being prepared will help you feel more confident come testing day, potentially raising your final score.

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New Student Debt Report Looks at Those Who Borrow Most

April 27, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

While many students – and their parents – will say no amount of student loan debt is ideal, a new report has zeroed in on those at the top of the pile, those who borrow most and may be most at risk for defaulting on their loans and running the risk of hurting their credit scores.

The newest student debt story comes from a report released yesterday by the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center, which looked at data from 2007-2008 graduates who participated in the “National Postsecondary Student Aid Study.” It paid particular attention to the 17 percent of all bachelor’s degree recipients in that year who graduated with at least $30,500 in student loans. Of those, one in six had average student loan bills of $45,700, with much of those loans coming from private lenders who typically lend to students at higher interest rates.

An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education focused on one particular detail included in the report – that those who borrow more are disproportionately black. Although the sample size was small, and the report’s researchers were hesitant to place too much importance on any breakdowns based on race, the numbers did show some differences in that category. According to the study, 27 percent of black bachelor’s degree recipients borrowed $30,500 or more, compared to 16 percent of white graduates, 14 percent of Hispanic students, and 9 percent of Asian students. Those numbers have little to do with income, however. Middle-class students tended to borrow more than those coming from low-income households, perhaps suggesting that those are the students who are more likely to attend private colleges rather than public institutions.

How else did the report describe those students who borrowed most?

  • The frequency of high debt is higher among independent students than among dependent students (24 percent graduated with at least $30,500 in debt).
  • Students who graduated from for-profit institutions are much more likely to have high debt levels than other students.
  • Private loans are most prevalent among students with family incomes of $100,000 or higher.
  • Although black graduates have the highest debt totals, Asian students rely more on private loans. About 12 percent of Asian graduates had no federal loans, with 68 percent of their student loan debt coming from non-federal sources.
  • Higher-income parents of bachelor’s degree recipients are more likely than those with incomes below $60,000 to take out PLUS Loans, and borrow more when they do. Thirty percent of the lowest-income parents borrowed an average of $22,400 in PLUS Loans, while 47 percent of those with incomes of $100,000 or higher borrowed an average of $41,500.
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Study Evaluates Transfer Admissions Process

April 29, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

For some of you, next fall will be a fresh start on a new campus, whether you’re transferring from a community college to complete a bachelor’s degree, or whether you were unhappy at your four-year university and needed a change of scenery. You’re not alone. The transfer experience is a reality for about one-third of all students who go to college, according to a report issued this week by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) on the transfer admissions process.

The study, which used data from the 2006 NACAC’s annual  Admission Trends Survey and pieces of a dissertation project from Michigan State University, looked at not only the number of college students who transfer schools but what transfer students can expect to be judged on when they apply to new schools, an important piece of information for students worried about how their applications will be perceived by admissions officials. Overall, about 64 percent of all transfer applicants are admitted to their intended colleges; about 69 percent of all first-time applicants are admitted.

According to the study, your academic achievements from high school become much less important than what you’ve done so far at the college you’re currently at. (Both public and private institutions overwhelmingly agreed on this point, according to the study.) College-level GPAs were ranked as the most important thing schools look at when they receive applications from potential transfer students. Grades in transferable courses are also ranked high in terms of what college officials look for. Private colleges are much more likely than public institutions to pay attention to things personal essays, recommendations and interviews. Larger, public institutions viewed the following more positively than private colleges: having 60 or more hours of transferable credit, being more than 25 years old, and planning to enroll part-time.

As far as what else admissions officials considered fairly important on a transfer applicant’s file, the results were a mixed bag:

  • Scores on standardized tests are important to 3.8 percent of public and 8.5 percent of private schools.
  • The quality of prior post-secondary institutions is important to 7.4 percent of public and 13.2 percent of private schools. (The study does not describe how “quality” is judged.)
  • A student’s ability to pay is considered by 3.4 percent of private schools. (This was a non-issue for public institutions surveyed for this study.)
  • Student interviews were considered by 11.1 percent of private schools. (This was a non-issue for public institutions surveyed for this study.)
  • Race/ethnicity was important to 2.4 percent of public and 2.6 percent of private schools.
  • Essays and writing samples were important to 6.1 percent of public and 25.5 percent of private schools.
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Space Still Available at Many Colleges for Fall

May 5, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

May 1 is traditionally the day many students submit enrollment deposits to their intended schools and make their college choice official. For colleges will late and rolling admissions, however, now begins the time to woo students into choosing their school for fall.

Despite what you’ve heard about increased competition and limited space at the most selective institutions (and colleges in California, where the state school system is using wait lists for the first time), space is still available at a number of colleges across the country. A survey released today by the National Association for College Admission Counseling lists those public and private schools, and whether slots available for new freshman and transfer students are limited or more plentiful.  The Space Availability Survey is also probably good news for students on wait lists, as it shows there are still options for those who may be rejected from those schools they have been waiting to hear back from. The survey also lists which schools still have housing and financial aid available to incoming students, as both may be limited this late in the game.

For once, it seems, the ball is in the students’ courts. Schools that may need to reach deep into their wait lists or that may have lower enrollments overall due to high price tags that may not be as desirable in a tough economy may need to put in a little extra effort getting students interested in their campuses. A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education described the “sweet and subtle science” of wooing students who have yet to make their final decisions. At Lafayette College, for example, admissions officials spend much of the late spring reaching out to high school seniors and their parents with personalized follow-up letters, e-mails, phone calls, and on-campus events meant to showcase how their school is different than the rest and is more interested in building relationships with new additions to their student body.

At Menlo College, admissions officials don’t expect to have their incoming class finalized until the first week of September, according to an article yesterday in The Chronicle, with many of those late registrants coming from overseas and transfer students from across the country. Pennsylvania State University at Schuylkill is about two-thirds of the way to their enrollment goal for their new group of incoming freshmen. At the same time, recruitment officers there are contacting juniors for next year.

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Study Finds College Students "Addicted" to Social Media

May 6, 2010

by Scholarships.com Staff

Many of you have probably joked about being “addicted” to your Twitter accounts, cell phones, and other social media outlets. A recent study from the University of Maryland shows that for many college students, that description of their relationship with those tools may not be too far off.

The recent study, “24 Hours: Unplugged,” found that at least on the Maryland campus, students hooked on social media may experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those addicted to alcohol and other substances if they are forced to do without those tools for any longer period of time. The study, led by the International Center for Media and the Public Agenda, came to that conclusion after asking 200 students on the Maryland campus to give up all modes of media for one full day. Those students were then asked to describe their personal experiences on, somewhat ironically, a blog, the next day.

According to the results of the study, the students came up with the equivalent of a 400-page novel when describing their experiences. So what did they say? We’ve come up with some highlights:

  • "My attempt at the gym without the ear pieces in my iPhone wasn’t the same; doing cardio listening to yourself breathe really drains your stamina."
  • "I literally had to have my friend hide my phone so I wouldn’t check it by accident."
  • "It becomes a normal task to look at my phone every few minutes, yes minutes."
  • "It is almost second nature to check my Facebook or email; it was very hard for my mind to tell my body not to go on the Internet."
  • "I knew that the hardest aspect of ridding myself of media though, would be not checking Facebook or my emails, so I went ahead and deactivated my Facebook account in advance. It’s pathetic to think that I knew I had to delete my Facebook in order to prevent myself from checking it for one day."
  • "Although I started the day feeling good, I noticed my mood started to change around noon. I started to feel isolated and lonely. I received several phone calls that I could not answer."

Addiction is a strong word, and there haven’t been any formal initiatives to add things like “Internet addiction” to the American Psychiatric Association’s list of disorders and addictions. But is this something we should worry about nonetheless? According to the news release on the study, even the study’s project director was surprised by the number of students who had such intense reactions to leaving their media alone for a day. What do you think? Are college students too dependent on media? How long could you go without your favorite media outlets?

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